Wireless, the new Jack of All Trades

Your wireless router is destined to become the most important piece of equipment in your life for entertainment, security and information. For some of us, it already is.

Some people say they can’t live without their smart phones, but it would be fair to say that most (if not all) of us would not give up wireless internet. And its how your router bridges the gap between the devices that bring entertainment into your living room that’s making the little flashing box so important.

Flat panel televisions are now a commodity, decent home audio is within most budgets and High Definition is becoming the preferred way to watch content on TV. Add on wireless devices, phones and tablets and people have almost too many choices on how to be entertained. And everyone wants it to all work together – without wires. No one likes wires; the unsightly snake pit lurking behind the TV stand, speaker wires tucked behind baseboards or under carpets, or the distracting cables trailing from a wall mounted TV.

Is there a totally wireless solution for picture and audio? Not yet, but it is well on its way. And some of the solutions out there now are way too cool, and convenient, to overlook.

If you own an iPhone, an iPad or iPod (who doesn’t?), and you don’t have an Apple TV using airplay hooked up already, you are missing out. Even if it is used as a wireless music server, the Apple TV shines. It is a breeze to program, as Apple devices are similar, plugs into any type digital audio device, and with the free remote app from the iTunes store, you have a wireless remote. And it’s the little things that Apple puts into design that continues to set the company apart – the ATV generation 1 and 2 come with ridiculously long, rubberized ac cords , making it easy to place inconspicuously, especially the current Apple TV 2nd gen with its tiny footprint.

The really cool factor is you can have more than one ATV on the same network, running the same library. So the possibilities are limitless – with summer around the corner, think of the cool factor of having one ATV hooked up to your main home theatre or stereo, and another for outdoor speakers, playing the same music inside and out, with your library at your fingertips. Guests can even jump onto your network and stream their music too. As long as Home Sharing is turned on through iTunes and each device, they all can work on the network.

Same goes for the ATV’s picture quality, with full HD picture and sound for television and movies; and again it makes entertaining a breeze not only with music and playlists, but the onboard YouTube and flickr apps add to the fun. Of course, Netflix is there too.

The iPad mirroring feature is equally impressive, with full HD quality streamed wireless from an iPad2 to your TV. Video and audio quality were great with no lag or blips, and online examples of the gaming feature look promising. This is another great wireless application for the other rooms in the house – a simple 32” television, mounted on the wall in the bedroom, with an Apple TV fixed to the mount and connected to the TV. No cable, satellite box or late-night fumbling with the remote required.

The most important aspect of all of these features is that they are built to only work wirelessly. If you attempt to set up the Apple TV unit with an Ethernet cable, the functionality of these features is basically switched off. Another point to keep in mind is the ATV 2nd gen only has digital outputs so your stereo red-and-white connections are gone. The silver 1st gen had them, but is becoming harder to find, even though it is still a great device.

In the above scenario, another Apple product, the AirPort Express, is a great workaround for someone wanting to use analog connections for things like computer speakers. Added bonus: it also extends your wireless network, acts as a wireless access point and can connect to a printer to work as wireless print server. While it’s not as media-centric as the ATV, the AirPort Express is one of the most versatile pieces of equipment on the market for less than $100.

These are great examples of how to get full quality streaming sound and picture with minimal to no wires in your home, condo or apartment. And that’s not even scratching the surface of the wireless offerings in the market today. Wireless HDMI standards are still being looked at by the HDMI Licensing group and wireless speakers are still finding their market. Next time I will go over a few devices that can help you get rid of a few of the HDMI and speaker wires in your setup.

And remember, now is a good time to update your router security password.

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